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Dissent is Democracy's Safety Valve, Says SC, Gives Reprieve to Arrested Activists

A bench headed by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra said the five activists won't be sent behind the bars for now and will have to be kept under house arrest in their homes till the next hearing on September 6.

Utkarsh Anand | CNN-News18

Updated:August 29, 2018, 10:35 PM IST
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Dissent is Democracy's Safety Valve, Says SC, Gives Reprieve to Arrested Activists
Activists from various organisations make a human chain in protest against the arrest of five activists in connection with the Bhima-Koregaon violence case in Patna on Wednesday. (PTI Photo)
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New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday said it would examine contentions that arrest of five civil rights activists in connection with Bhima Koregaon violence was an attempt at muzzling the voice of dissent.

A bench headed by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, as a major interim relief, said these activists won't be sent behind the bars for now and will have to be kept under house arrest in their homes till the next hearing on September 6.

"Dissent is the safety valve of democracy and if you don't allow dissent, the pressure valve of democracy will burst," the apex court said as it issued notices to the Centre and Maharashtra government on the petition that has challenged the validity of ten arrests.

Five other activists were arrested in similar raids in the Bhima Koregaon probe in June.

The plea also sought an independent investigation into the entire episode of nationwide raids and subsequent arrests.

Simultaneous raids carried out on Tuesday had targeted the residences of prominent Telugu poet Varavara Rao in Hyderabad, activists Vernon Gonzalves and Arun Ferreira in Mumbai, trade union activist Sudha Bharadwaj in Faridabad and civil liberties activist Gautam Navalakha in New Delhi.

Rao, Bharadwaj, Farreira, Gonzalves and Navalakha were arrested under IPC Section 153 (A), which relates to promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place or birth, residence, language and committing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony.

Two of them - Navalakha and Bharadwaj - have been put under house arrest after respective high courts were moved by way of habeas corpus petitions.

Senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing for a bunch of five petitioners that included noted historian Romila Thapar, submitted before the Supreme Court that there was no need at all to send them to jail until the Court decides the petition.

He suggested they could be put under the house arrest and the bench, also comprising Justices AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud, accepted his plea.

The Centre and state government have been given time till Wednesday to submit their replies to the petition, and the Court will hear the matter again on Thursday next week.

Appearing for Maharashtra, Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, opposed the petition on the ground of maintainability.

"Some of these people have been jailed in the past too," said Mehta.

But Justice Chandrachud shot back: "What are you saying… they are professors. They say it is an attempt to muzzle the voice of dissent. Let us examine it."

Justice Chandrachud added: "Dissent is the safety valve of democracy. If you don't allow dissent, the pressure valve will burst."

When Singhvi said that democracy will be dead if such arbitrary arrests are permitted, the CJI replied: That is why we have issued notices."
| Edited by: Aakarshuk Sarna
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